I once was a super mom.
My house was always clean and uncluttered, because I had neatly organized bins with pictures on the outside of the proper contents and because I trained my kids at young ages to properly put away all their things as soon as they were done with them. I also had a rigorous cleaning schedule, mapped out on an excel spreadsheet, outlining the daily tasks that would need to get done to ensure optimum cleanliness and organization.
I had dinner ready and on the table promptly at 5:30 when my husband walked in the door. The children were seated at the table which they had been trained to set properly, hands and faces clean, ready to greet their Daddy with a sweet chorus of hellos and hugs and we love yous!
My kids always left the house with their shoes on the right feet, their shirts tucked in to their matching pants, faces clean.
We only had 20 minutes of “screen time” each day, closely monitored for appropriate content and educational benefit, and no child complained that they didn’t get more time because they clearly understood that too much “screen time” would rot their amazingly developed brains and they would never want that!
I showered every day. And dried my hair. And wore clothes that were clean. And cute. And even the same size as they were the day I met my husband.
My kids never ate high fructose corn syrup. Or Happy Meals. And definitely not Kraft Mac and Cheese – what makes it that bright orange anyways? They LOVED their vegetables, never asked for dessert, and knew that greek yogurt sweetened only with real fruit puree was a much better choice than squeeze yogurt.
So what happened to my amazing, perfect mom-ness?
Crazy story… I actually had kids.
I Once Was a Super Mom
All of the above were honestly the expectations that I had of motherhood – that I had of myself – before I had kids. And this list of expectations I had is by no means exhaustive. I had expectations about how often I would read to my kids, how many Bible studies I would lead with my kids in tow, how many date nights I would go on, how many cute crafts we would make (and this was even before Pinterest) and so on. I would see other moms that didn’t have this… and it didn’t occur to me that was normal. Instead I stood in judgment of them, wondering why they didn’t have it more together. Why didn’t they just have a system? Or plans? Didn’t they want life to go smoother?
I will tell you, I hung on to the perfect, amazing mom picture in my head for a long time. Definitely through my first born and into the birth of my second. And then through the adoption of my third. And not only did I hang on to the picture in my head… But I actually tried to do it. To make the picture a reality. I worked really hard to be the amazing mom that I had dreamed of being for so long. And even on the days that I knew I wasn’t… you better believe I tried to show everyone else in my circle of influence that I was. Because not keeping up and knowing it myself was one thing. But admitting it to others? Well, I definitely wasn’t going to go there.
The Comparison Game
And not only did I have the amazing mom picture in my mind, but I started to see her. Everywhere. I was smart enough to realize at this point that she may not have had ALL of it together. But she certainly was incredible – more incredible than myself. And usually, she had this one thing, this ONE remarkable, awesome, marvelous thing (maybe two or three).
I saw the extraordinary Pinterest mom. You know the one. She not only pins stuff on her boards… she actually does them. And when she does them, they look like the pictures on the board. And she LOVES to do activities with her kids like glitter, play-doh and paper mache. Yikes. I definitely wasn’t her.
I saw the extraordinary, super fit mom. You know the one. She’s not only a size nothing but what flesh is on her body is incredibly defined by the muscles underneath. She rocks yoga pants like nobody’s business- and they usually have a super cute matching jacket and stylish tennis shoes. She runs more miles in a day than I do in two weeks- and it’s before I am even awake- and then rehydrates and fuels with a protein packed smoothie that I would think tastes like cardboard and she insists tastes like a milkshake.
I saw the extraordinary theme birthday party mom. You know the one. She throws elaborate, down to the last detail, parties for her kids. The treat bags match the napkins which match the wall decorations which match the piñata which matches the games which match the snacks which match the craft which match the invitations that started the whole thing in the first place. Your kids think she hung the moon. You’re not so sure.
I saw the extraordinary meal preparer. You know the one. Not only did she provide three extremely balanced, nutritious meals and two healthy snacks for her kids each day, but she did it for other people too! Anytime there was a surgery, a new baby, a move… she was there with a hot, delicious meal that pleased both kids and adults. She was uber conscious of people’s preferences and even brought everything in a decorative basket complete with utensils and plates and napkins that were not only color coordinated but were such a blessing to the receiving family because there would be no dishes to do that night. Attached to the basket was usually a handmade greeting card and an encouraging scripture appropriate for the situation.
And the list goes on and on. There is park mom- the one that brings all the fun games for the kids at the park and doesn’t get annoyed when yet another kid spills her Costco sized bubble solution. There is PTA mom- the one that lives to serve her kids’ school, actually enjoys schlepping her kids fundraiser packets around and leaves a special gift for each teacher on their birthday in the teachers’ lounge- along with homemade muffins for everyone! There is Bible study mom- she leads two Bible studies at church- and even writes some of the curriculum, is constantly reminded by the Lord to pray for you and has her kids memorizing their AWANA verses before breakfast every day of the week… not just in the minivan on their way to AWANA on Wednesday nights.
I saw these moms. And you know what, I still do. And I desperately wanted to be them. I wanted to be exceptional. Maybe not the perfect, amazing, everything all together mom, but at least one of “those moms”. I honestly thought that because they excelled and were exceptional at that one thing, that made them better than me. I put all my eggs in their baskets. And when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see any of them. And I was ashamed. And I knew. I KNEW they were judging me. I knew I could never invite one of theme party moms kids to a party at my house- she would be horrified. I KNEW I couldn’t tell super fit mom that I was proud I ran two miles that day. And so on. I KNEW I would never measure up in their eyes. And so I did what I do best… I stewed on it. And stewed on it some more. And again, didn’t share it with anyone. It was too much! It was too hard to admit that I wasn’t “one of them.” It was too hard to admit that I didn’t know, when it came to this whole mothering gig, what I was really good at.
Over the last two years, I have endured some significant challenges when it comes to motherhood, particularly regarding one of my kids. I don’t have time to divulge here, but suffice it to say I am journeying a path on this road of motherhood I never thought I would. In the midst of my striving to be all that and more, God has given me a kid that has tested my every limit and everything that I thought I was doing at least halfway decently. And I have been brought to the end of my rope. Not only have I realized I am not the mom I dreamed of being before I had kids…. Not only have I realized I am not that mom who has that one AMAZING thing about her… But I was brought to a place where I realized that EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, I thought I knew was wrecked. So now what?
Through this extremely difficult challenge of raising my tenacious, determined child (it sounds so sweet when I put it that way, doesn’t it?) I have had to really open myself up to the reality that there is no perfect, amazing mom. I was doing everything I could to be her. And it wasn’t enough. I was exhausted, drained, and sapped of joy. I was trying to be everything I wasn’t, as well as everything my kids DID NOT NEED. So I started talking about it. To other moms. And to God. I opened myself up in ways I never had. And I realized what many of you already know… That the perfect mom is a myth. And those moms, those ones that were exceptional? They really were exceptional in those areas. But that didn’t mean that they weren’t absolutely human and just like me in every other area. And you know what else? I had other moms tell me that they thought I was one of those moms. Gasp! What? How could I have fooled them?
I fooled them because I wasn’t honest. When someone asked me how I was doing at church I told them I was fine. My Facebook posts only included my victories- not my failures. When I shared honestly and transparently with other moms it was a very, very select group of people… usually one or two… and they knew they shouldn’t share it elsewhere. And I put on the face. And I did it well.
My wearing the face… what it did to other sisters around me… was put them in a place where they thought I was THAT mom… that I was judging them and their inability to be the standard that they had created for themselves. I was putting other women in the same place I felt other women were putting me. And worse than that… I wasn’t allowing God to reveal who HE wanted me to be.
How to Stop the Comparison Game
You see, here’s the thing. No matter where you are at in your spiritual journey, I hope you can come to a place where you recognize that you were created by an incredible God. A God that doesn’t make mistakes. A God that is creative and all knowing and loving. A God that delights in making each of His creations unique. And if he were sitting right next to you at your table right now, would you look at Him and tell Him He made a mistake? Because when we doubt how He has made us, or when we LONG to be something different than what we really are, that is in essence what we are doing.
You know those moms that we categorized earlier? Its not bad that they do what they do. In fact, its awesome that they do what they do. Because odds are, they did those things, or were those women, before they were even moms. PTA mom? She’s probably always been a leader. Theme party mom? She’s probably always been creative and had a gifted eye for detail. They are simply exercising who they truly are now in their role as mom in an exceptional way. We should celebrate them. And we should attempt to be just like them… in the unique way God has made us.
What do you enjoy doing? What really fills you up? Cooking? Serving the needy? Reading books? Organizing? Then do it, do it, do it. Do it the best you can… and do it with and for your kids. And celebrate it! Find what makes you, you, and rejoice in it. And if you can’t figure it out, ask a dear friend. Or your husband. Or your mom… if that doesn’t freak you out a little (who knows what she will say?). And the best person to ask? God. After all, He is the one that made you. He knows. And if you don’t know how to ask Him about that, ask someone you know who does.
If you’re struggling in this area… if you feel trapped by what you are not and what you think others are… please share that with another mom you trust. Or more than one mom! Can we commit, as moms, to be unified in our support of each other? Can we commit to stop the judgment cycle and start the empathetic, encouragement cycle instead? Because guess what. Odds are there is at least one, and probably many, moms in this room that share your same fears and struggles. That feel like they are not enough. That feel like constant failures. This place, this community of moms, is an incredible gift. This is a safe place. Will you go there with the other women here? Will you be honest and vulnerable?
If you here nothing else today, please hear this. You are not a failure. You are ENOUGH. You have been uniquely knit together in your mother’s womb by a perfect God. And He also knit together the kids that He has gifted you. Because He knew that you were the best mom for the job. In order to do this job of motherhood you need to be connected to Him. To be the best mom you can be, the mom God intended for you to be, lean on Him and lean on each other. You are “that mom”. We all are. Let’s celebrate and own that today, shall we?
Meet my Guest Writer: This picture of me and one of my best friends, Kelsey. She was asked to do a talk at MOPS on the trap of comparison. We too often compare ourselves to others on this mom journey. When she had me proof read her talk, I was emotionally drawn to it, and I could totally relate to everything she said. I asked her if I could share it on my blog. Thank you, Kelsey, for being real and vulnerable. Thank you for the amazing way you compel us to stop the comparison game that robs us of joy.